Friday, September 26, 2008

BYU commercial

Lately I've been having a few people tell me that they saw me on BYU TV on a commercial. I hadn't seen it but last Spring I went up to BYU for graduation and they took some pictures and taped me for some promotional stuff so I knew it could be a possibility. BYU will use the BGS graduates for one year for the promotional materials for the next year.

I had a family member call me and ask me why I didn't tell anyone about it. Well I didn't know if they were going to use my tapes or not. The other day I got a packet in the mail with the commercial included. It's hard to watch myself on it because I can see all my nervous idiosyncrasies (Jeff had to point out I close my eyes when I'm nervous) I tried to copy the video from the DVD they gave me but it didn't work so if you want to see it you'll have to go to this link. After you click on my face just push the play button...

http://ce.byu.edu/bgs/video.cfm?v=Christine

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Karate Anyone?

Jacob and Ashley have a kind of love/hate relationship. I was thrilled when they started playing together one Sunday for an extended period without any fighting. (We'll not angry at each other fighting at least). Jacob decided to teach Ashley Karate. She's thrilled. They make these big arenas of pillows and throw each other around a little and call it Karate.

I thought I'd tape them for the blog...then we realized how rough Jacob was actually being. Even though Ashley wasn't complaining we told him that he can only pretend to be doing Karate, he can't really throw Ashley around so hard. Ashley insists that she wants to keep doing Karate though. Crazy kids.

video

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The rest of our trip

Now that we had our clothes the rest of our trip went pretty smoothly... Wednesday morning I woke up early with Jeff and went to listen to first speaker then raced back to take the city bus tour with New York Life. We got to see a little more of the city narrated with a guide that spoke English. Very Slowly. (Maybe he was afraid we wouldn't understand him.) We got out at Retiro park and rode their solar powered boat and walked around a little. It reminded me of Central Park but with more monuments.


This is the soccer stadium in the middle of the city. It holds 80,000 people and has no parking lot. Imagine that logistic nightmare. This is the bull fighting ring. It had a lot of Arab influence in the architecture. I guess Arabs controlled the area for 800 years and even 18% of their words have Arabic roots (who knew)


I wondered if I would've been able to stomach watching a bullfight while we were here just to say we did it. After talking to someone who attempted it and hearing all the horrors they witnessed I knew I couldn't have handled it. They left less than 1/2 way through after seeing blood, torture and a goring. Whether we think it barbaric or not I guess it's still a very popular tradition here.


Getting back to the hotel was difficult because there was a lot of official things going on. There were dignitaries visiting the royal palace, the prime minister was speaking in a government building across from our hotel (lots of double parking going on right in the middle of the street) and this unknown procession in the mideavil plaza that housed the former city hall.


After I got back from our tour I ate lunch with Jeff and then we went on the one and only tour we booked for our trip to La Escorial. It was an ancient monastary to the kings that was about a 45 minute drive from Madrid. Jeff talked to the tour guide lady the whole time in Italian (we was thrilled to use his language) and I tried hard to follow (hard to do). We got to the town and it started sprinkling. When we got to the monastary it started pouring.

We were very glad to go on the tour. It was fascinating to tour the monastary and see the very bed where one of the kings died in the 1500's and was left in the same position all these years. The most fascinating was the ornate crypt where the royal family is burried. It was marble lined with crystal chandeliers, intricately ornate while the rest of the monastary was very simple in comparison. The guide told us that the reason the crypt was so ornate was because it had to do with God. Unfortunately we couldn't take any pictures inside. (like most of the places we visited) Jeff did shoot this picture of these manicured gardens that we took a peek of out of the 2nd story window. (He technically wasn't taking a picture inside).



When we got back we got ready for dinner. We were invited to go to dinner with the company CFO and 3 other couples. We ate at the Jockey restaurant which was very nice though very smokey (they don't have the same smoking law there) By the time we got home I smelled like I was hanging out in a casino all night. The food was excellent, though a little exotic. Care for sea urchin in sea weed anyone? I tried the stuffed chicken. It was stuffed with liver pate and had a side of prunes and raisins. I vowed to try everything I could on this trip so I ate as much as I could but I have to admit Jeff's beef medalions were better. The best of all was dessert!


On Thursday I met Jeff to hear Sy's farewell speach and then we went to visit the Prado museum that was across the street from our hotel. On the way we had to check out these street performers... They looked like statues but then one would open his eyes and startle the audience. As soon as we started walking down the street after watching the street performers I felt a tug on my purse. Immediately I turned around and glared at two women who were walking behind me. I instantly knew that someone was trying to steal something from my purse. I looked at her hands to see what she took but she didn’t have anything in them. I looked into her eyes to see any flicker of guilt or uncomfortableness but there was not even a glimmer. I stared at her as she followed me for a little while and she then turned around and walked the other direction. Once she was gone I looked in my purse and sure enough my wallet was almost completely falling out. That was a close call. I was very lucky, I found out later that 4 women on our trip had gotten their purses stolen that week.


We walked over to my long anticipated and Jeff's long dreaded trip to the Prado. When we first came in we saw this group of missionaries. They were thrilled to talk to us and wanted a picture. They were all Italian except for one Spaniard, again Jeff got to use his Italian. After this picture a museum worker made us put our cameras away even though we weren't anywhere near any art.


So we started wandering the Prado. We were warned by other agents that there were a lot of depressing pictures here. For a long time we only stayed on the first floor and I knew what they meant. There were a lot of odd and disturbing scenes, many of them with religious subject matter. After awhile we realized that most of the masterspeices were upstairs including some that were only featured in the Prado. We saw Goya, Rafael and others . Here we got into more paintings of kings, and princes, mythological subjects and portraits of odd people such as dwarfs and a really overweight girl. After awhile Jeff’s patience was wearing thin so I tried to hurry it up and gloss through what I could and still see as much as I could. I got to see the masters and that was good enough for me so I was happy. Thanks honey for being patient.

After the Prado Jeff and I went back to get ready for the last dinner with the regular council meeting. They took us to a dinner theater place. We were seated in a tight circle of tables that were full of tapas for us to sample while we waited. Our appetizer (or salad) was interesting. It came in a melon half and was a seafood salad with like a heavy mayonnaise cream sauce with melon balls in it sprinkled on top with red caviar. Interesting but I ate it because I had to try everything. Our entrée was beef medallions, they were pretty good but not nearly as good as the ones that Jeff had eaten the night before.

After dinner we were treated to a show of flamenco dancing. The dancing was very soulful and the singing was almost mournful. Again the singing reminded me of those Arabic influences. We found out later that these dancers were supposed to be the best in the world. It was all fun to watch though we had to peek around heads for a good view and we were sitting next to the speaker so the “mournful” singing rang in our ears.



Friday Jeff went to an extra day of meetings. A big group of us made plans to to to Toledo in between lunch and dinner. We went down to the train stations to catch a bullet train. The inside of the station had an indoor botanical garden with banana trees and hundreds of turtles. Beautiful. (Though it was a little unnerving knowing that there was a terrorist attack in that very train station back in 2004)

The bullet train was nicer that many of the airplanes that we have gone on but reminded us of an airplane. The ride was fast and smooth and in 25 minutes we were in Toledo. We had 2 ½ hours to explore as much of the city as was humanly possible.


We took a bus to the central plaza of the city and were immediately enchanted. It was surrounded but a river and a ancient wall. It was very old and looked medieval. This is what we had to pass through to enter into the city.

There was an ornate cathedral, towers, very narrow winding street and archways that had beautiful views. On the advice of former visitors we took a ride on train that toured us in and around Toledo. It was the best way to see the city especially in a short amount of time. It had a narration in Spanish and then English so we were able to learn about it as we rode around. There was some crazy stories and legends like the one about a soilder and a arab princess who were lovers. When she was caught by her family they cut off her head and threw it into the gorge and every time it bounced it created another spring of water. Hence the seven springs. Wonderful. They showed us the spot where there was an outdoor morgue where family members could claim the bodies of their loved ones that had drowned and been fished from the river. Crazy.

We took a peek in the “free” door of the cathedrial because we didn't want to spend 7 more Euros a piece and got to see just how ornate it was. Beautiful, but of course no pictures allowed.



The city was famous for it’s steel so their were tons of swords and scissors for sale as well as marzipan. Since it was our last day we decided to try the churros and hot chocolate that everyone kept talking about, it wasn’t the greatest but at least we tried it. We tried marzipan and it was sickenly sweet but at least now I know what it is.



Our last dinner in Madrid was a lot of fun. When we were brought up to our dinner and were surprised with maracas and castanets on every place setting. There was lively music playing and of course we all picked up our “musical instruments” and joined in. It was a lot of fun and we were even pressured to join a conga line.


As we were dancing and partying we somehow ate our dinner as well (but you had to be careful because they wanted to take your plate if you left the table.) It was a great ending to a great trip.
video


Things I will miss from Spain
Crusty bread
Their version of orange and lemon soda (in 8oz bottles)
Strawberry yogurt mentos (we can’t get them here)
Beautiful fountains and architecture everywhere
Being forced to use Spanish
Nice, wonderful New York Life people
Good food that I don’t have to cook

Things I won’t miss from Spain
Cigarette smoke
Being forced to use Spanish
No sliced, soft bread
Raw salmon, liver pate and heavy mayonnaise sauces
Having to refuse coffee at least 5 times at breakfast and refuse wine and coffee 10 times or more at lunch and dinner

Just a last note for our babysitters for the week.

We had Tiffany and Daren Gunnell stay with the kids. We came home to happy, well-fed kids who had completed homework, piano practice, soccer practices and more. The house was clean and even the wash was done! They did a wonderful job! Way to go Gunnells!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hooray

Our clothes finally arrived! We were getting desperate. We got back from our lunch meeting at about 3:30 and our luggage still wasn't there. We made another round of phone calls and went up to the room to figure out what we were going to do for the formal honor dinner that night. We had 2 hours to figure it out. Just as we were leaving the room we got a call that they had finally come. Yah!

We changed immediately and went out to tour the other 1/2 of the city with our 2 day double decker bus passes. We didn't make it 1/4 of the way to the bus stop before it started pouring rain on us. It was coming down hard so we gave up and went back to the hotel to hang out with some of the agents.

The rain ended up clearing up with just enough time to buy a couple souveniers before it was time to dress for dinner. Dinner was great especially since we were able to relax now that we had our clothes.



Jeff getting his chairman's pin from the former CEO Sy Sternburg and current CEO Fred Matthas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

All I want for my birthday is my luggage


OK Day 4 in the same clothes and the jokes are wearing thin. My closet is still empty and now I'm to the point of being relegated to the room on my birthday feeling sorry for myself and writing in my journal all about it instead of enjoying the city with the rest of the wives or sitting in the meetings with Jeff.

You might be wondering why we just didn’t go buy some clothes. Well for one thing we’ve been strung along all day and night saying that our bags were just around the corner. They went so far as to tease us with a note under our door telling us that our bags had been delivered just to find out they had been delivered to the delivery company and they were on their way (in some indefinite time in the future). Jeff can't even buy clothes here because they need to be tailored and I just found out today is a holiday and the stores are closed. Lucky me.

I try and keep reminding myself that I’m just being superficial and that I should stop worrying about it. I dreaded going to breakfast this morning to talk to all the wives who saw me in same predicament last night. For awhile I talk to other people and try and be friendly and I’m fine. I’m fine until I look in the mirror and get embarrassed. Flat hair, mottled skin, no jewlery and the same clothes for 4 days. No matter what I do I look like I just got home from the gym. I am here for the first time in Europe, with the top producers of the company and I have less possessions than a homeless person. What a lesson in forced humility.

Really I do own clothes, I do wear make up and I do believe in wearing jewelry. I just don’t have it right now. I think I am being taught a lesson. I am getting a glimpse of the ache of people who are struggling when everyone else around them seems to be great and have everything. I understand the desire to pull away and turn inwards instead of wanting to reach out. I feel it. I understand it a little better.

I think I've learned my lesson now.

So can it be over?

Please?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday in Madrid


OK so we came into Madrid with no baggage. Not having this predicament before we were not smart enough to bring anything extra. So we had nothing but the magazines that we brought to read on the airplane and our wallets and passports (though I was very glad I had thrown my camera in my purse) So we request an emergency kit from the hotel for toiletries. They gave us this...

Obviously it's geared for the typical man whose on a business trip. It included toothpaste that was aloe Vera flavored and deodorant that was like a cologne spray that smelled like mouthwash. Nice.

Not wanting to smell European in less than 24 hours we decided to go to the store and try and get a couple of things on our own. I figured we needed a few things to look somewhat human. We went and bought the cheapest deodorant, brush, hairspray, eyeshadow, powder and mascara we could find. We got the bill and it was $65.00. Such a deal.



The upside was we found a great little restaurant to have pizza in on the way back to our hotel. We looked at the menu and then asked the waitress's recommendation. She recommended the pizza that was topped with apples. Somehow I didn't imagine that tasting too good with tomato sauce so we decided to go with our own instincts. I noticed that their version of tropical pizza had the ham and the pineapple but it included bananas as well. We went with ham only and barbecue which was actually really good.

Well Monday morning we woke up with nothing to wear so dressing was an uncomplicated thing. We went down to ask someone about breakfast and we were offered a seat at the hotels breakfast buffet. We decided to go for it and didn’t even ask the price. I guess breakfast in Europe is not usually a big thing but they looked like everything was overboard for the breakfast buffet. They had everything from salmon, to fruit, to every kind of bread you could imagine as well as cereal, eggs, bacon, cheese sliced and cold cuts and more. I got to try their hot chocolate which was much thicker than ours and somewhat bitter. When I first started drinking it I wanted to throw some milk in my cup but I stuck with it and actually got used to it and thought it was pretty good. We weren’t overly surprised when we got the bill and realized we just spent $110.00 dollars on breakfast. Such a deal!



Yummy! $100 sure tastes good!

After breakfast we went with a couple of other New York Life people and bought a two day bus ticket for the double decker bus. We got to see all of the older parts of Madrid while listening to a narration over headphones. Jeff and I got off in the middle of the city and walked around and explored. We checked out the Plaza Mayor and some of the little souvenir shops that are all over looking for something for the kids. We found out that a lot of the shops offer the same things over and over again without much variety. We haven’t found anything too exciting yet. We felt sorry for the beggars in the street. There was one guy sitting on the ground with no legs and another guy with no arms who holds a cup of coins in his mouth shaking it up and down. Jeff threw them a couple of coins feeling sorry for them. It wasn’t until a couple hours later that he realized the couple of coins he threw him was worth $3.00, he made sure to check what coins he was throwing in the future.

The buildings were all beautiful! Our view from the bus...





On the way back to the hotel we saw a cathedral that was open so we thought we’d go in for a visit. In Italy all the churches were open so people could visit any time they wanted. We walked into the end of a mass. We sat in the back to check it out and as soon as mass was done we looked around a little and then left. Sure enough there was a guy at the door ready to lock it up. We found out later the cathedrals aren't really open to the public, you have to pay to get in. Well I guess we got a free peek.


After we came back to the hotel to each lunch and register (and check if our bags were here yet) we found out that the tour we were supposed to take had been changed. We had signed up to go to the Palace Real, which was the royal palace but it was going to be closed for the next couple of days for visiting dignitaries. The only day we could visit it would be today. We decided to use our bus tickets and ride over for a quick visit.




I was excited because I have never visited a palace before. We paid to go in and started our walking tour. I found out in the first room that we weren’t allowed to take pictures, even without flash. We did snap a couple however before we got caught. The armory was fascinating and housed ancient suits of armor, and jousting outfits, swords, staffs and guns from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. When we first walked in the palace we saw the guard towers and courtyard and could imagine the protection that the kings used to get.



Inside we walked up a set of the royal stairs to the throne room, the dining hall, bedrooms and all sorts of rooms to entertain guests. They were all decorated in different styles which I could appreciate after taking Art History in high school and college. It was fascinating to hear of all the work that went into the designing of one room. The Rococo style seemed to be the most ornate and each ceiling was filled with frescos of scenes from mythology and religious themes with royalty thrown in there in strategic ways. I was surprised at how tied Spain was to ancient Rome and even the mythological origins of Spain were somehow tied to Hercules (of course with cherubs and angels thrown in for good measure). We couldn’t see the chapel that was in the palace because it was being renovated but this is the cathedral that lied directly across from the palace. Obviously church was a big part of their lives.


In one room there were no less than 3 very ornate clocks sitting on 3 different tables. I guess clocks were all the rage at the time, so of course you need more than one on display. One room that stood out was a room that was completely paneled in porcelain which was very popular at the time. In one of the more recent rooms they had made a billiard room and had covered over everything with wood paneling, including the fresco painted ceiling. In the next room a bomb blast had damaged the room and had destroyed the ceiling that covered the fresco and they chose to leave it exposed for view. The pharmacy was also very fun to see. I guess every palace had one and they said the king never went anywhere without his pharmacist and a medicine cabinet to go with him. I guess it makes sense that you wouldn’t want the King or his family to be have some disease take him out. It was fascinating to see all the glass and porcelain jars of extracts of everything that you could imagine lining the walls of this old pharmacy, some of them still containing liquids.

We got back to the hotel hopefull that our luggage arrived. The airline found our luggage in the morning and promised to have it delivered to the hotel, but it still wasn't there. Every couple hours they promised it would be there. That night we went to the opening dinner/social in our traveling clothes as everyone was in shirt and tie and dresses and heals. People were nice and we laughed and joked but inside we both felt uncomfortable. We slipped out when we saw the CEO of the company. Jeff didn't want to present himself not dressed appropriately and I didn't blame him.
At 11:30 we tried the front desk again, still no luggage. Jeff mentioned his frustration at the airlines promises with no results finally the concierge guy told us "They lie." Nice.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are We There Yet?

I just got back from Spain last night and had intentions of updating my blog as our trip progressed... Well that didn't happen. It was going to be about $25.00 a night for internet so I thought I'd do it when we got home. So I'll share my story here and there...

Jeff and I have been anticipating this trip to Spain for weeks! We got the kids all set up with babysitters, food and arrangements for the week and we were finally ready to be off. We were looking forward to this trip to spend time together and to enjoy a little bit of Spain. We planned to only come in one day early so we could see a little on our own before the conference started. The plan was to leave on Saturday morning and we’d be in Spain on Sunday morning. We were prepared for a long trip but we had no idea that we were in for our own version of The Amazing Race…

So Saturday morning and we’re up at 4:30 to be out the door for Lax by 5:30am. The drive was great because nobody in their right mind wants to be on the road that early on a Saturday. We found out at the airport that the 2 flights after ours going into New York had been cancelled for the day because of the approaching hurricane so we thought that we were pretty lucky.

The plane offered us a total chick flick movie and a bunch of sitcoms to help us keep our minds off the turbulence. The video machine was right above my head so the stewardesses had to open my overhead bin about 50 times (no joke) to re-set up the shows and take the VCR tapes in and out. Food on the plane was not free. Jeff bought one 6 dollar sandwich and one 3 dollar cookie, such a deal after spending over a thousand dollars for the ticket! I ended up being quite grateful later because it was all the food we had for the next 12 hours. When we got to JFK we were put into a holding pattern waiting for our turn to fly into the airport. Luckily the pilot was pretty straight forward the whole time telling us what was up. After over an hour of sitting in a holding pattern the airport closed. So we had to fly to Syracuse because we were running out of gas. (Scary) At Syracuse we waited about an hour or so on the runway as they refueled and waited for the airport to open up. Our 5 hour flight turned to 8 hours making us miss our connecting flight to Madrid. We were hoping our Iberia flight would be delayed because of the weather but no such luck. Of course nobody at customer service could tell us anything and nobody at the airport knew anything until we took a train and ran forever to the gate to find out they had already left.



(Everyone waiting on the tarmac for the the plane to refuel)

Nobody was at the Iberia counter and customer service on the phone said to fly out tomorrow at 9:00 pm. “So what are we supposed to do in New York for 24 hours?” Jeff asked. They didn’t know, they were India and could care less. Luckily a nice airport worker (not Iberia) told us to go to American Airlines (way back where we started from) and go to their “first class” line and get help. Good tip. We were both irritated and tired but Jeff did an awesome job shmoozing the ticket agent and she got us on American Airline’s last flight out for the night going to London. From London we could get to Madrid. By the time the next guy in line was next to us the plane was full. Now I understand the relief of those Amazing Race contestants whose boarding passes are being printed out while the team next to them is out of luck. Whew!

We got on to our 7 hour flight to London and snuggled up between people on all sides to try and get some sleep sitting straight up which is quite a feat, especially since my neighbor decided to keep his light on the whole time and watch TV. We were fed dinner (for free) and then I put my blanket over my face, put the headphones in my ears to try and block out the conversations around me and tried to sleep. There was a monitor showing where we were flying and as I went to sleep I saw us moving over the Atlantic Ocean. After dozing for a few hours they came around with breakfast and I saw that we were just coming over Scotland. I was glad not to have to ponder too much on all that water that we were crossing while replaying the directions for the life jackets over and over in my head.

It was cool to be in London unexpectedly; even if it was brief it was long enough to make me want to come back for a visit. The airport was unique because we had to get ourselves to the terminal in which our flight was leaving but we didn’t know which gate to go to until the plane was actually boarding. All of us stood in front of a sign waiting for the sign to change and tell us where our gate was. I guess you’de better pay good attention or you could miss your flight. We were happy to find outlet adapters here for about 5 euros where the states wanted $20 in LAX and $40 in JFK! (Good thing we didn’t buy them earlier)



From London it was about a 2 hour flight to Madrid. We were very happy to be there but unfortunately now all our bags were lost. We waited an hour or so for the baggage to come out at the baggage claim just in case they came through but alas they didn’t. So we had to make a claim with Iberia. We actually met up with a couple of other New York life agents at baggage claim but now I wish we hadn’t. Jeff had called New York Life a couple weeks before to arrange a car to pick us up but once we were in Madrid our cell phones didn’t work so he borrowed the other agent’s cell to let New York Life know that we were there. The other agent said that he hadn’t arranged a ride for himself so Jeff said he could ride with us. While we were waiting for our bags to possibly come through they left to wait for us outside. 10 minutes later we followed them and there was nobody in sight. There was supposed to be someone in a red shirt from New York Life meeting us but after asking about 10 people in red shirts if they were with New York life we realized we were on our own.

Desperate we went to the information booth to ask the lady about making a phone call. We realized quickly that not many people speak English here. I know how Shawna feels now! Jeff does much better than me because though I had Spanish in high school I freeze every time I try and have a conversation with someone. Anyways the non-English speaking information lady could give us no information. She could point us to the phones but they were baffling to use and she couldn’t help us. Every coin would drop straight through and it wouldn’t take our credit card. So we went back to her. How do you use the phone? “I don’t know.” Can you show us? “No.”, How much does a call cost? “I don’t know”, have you ever used a pay phone? “No”. Jeff tried one last time. “Is there an information lady to give the information lady information?” She wasn’t too happy. We gave up on the no information lady and ended up asking a nice man to borrow his cell phone. He was the nicest person we had met so far and he wasn’t being paid to help us. We have found the people here are very nice but customer service is not so good. At this point we were beyond exhausted and more than a little frustrated.

After Jeff called New York life we saw a lady with a clipboard in a red shirt that we hadn’t seen before. We were very relieved to find that she was our contact person. We were very irritated to learn that not only had the other New York Life agent not waited for us, he had snaked the car sent for us, didn’t say that we were with him and didn’t let anyone one we were still there so nobody had a clue anyone was still waiting. (Nice thanks after Jeff had done all the arranging in the first place.) We ended up having to wait for another car and finally got to our hotel at 8:00pm, 3 hours after our flight landed and a day and ½ after we left from California. So much for coming in a day early but we were happy to finally be at our hotel!




The Palace Hotel in Madrid

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rotating Callings



This is the remnant of my brief stay in Young Womens. After serving in Primary for 5 years I was very excited to be called to be the Young Women's first counselor a little over 2 months ago. I was able to go to the regional Dance Festival with the girls, visit them at girls camp, try and bond with the inactives and was looking forward to starting the school year with the girls when I was given a new calling....Relief Society President.

I didn't see it coming and it was a little overwhelming at the beginning but now I'm excited. I've got a great presidency and we're in a good ward. I realized right away that it was bigger than I alone can handle so I'm learning quickly how to rely more on the Lord. I'm sure this will be a growing experience for me.

This poster was given to me from the Young Women leaders and girls as a Thank You and a Good Bye. Someday I'll be back (maybe when Ashley is in it). But for now I'm excited to be serving the sisters in Relief Society.